With the NHL season officially kicking off tonight and the San Jose Sharks season opener being just a couple more nights from now, it is time to look at how the Sharks opening night roster and lines might be organized.
For most of the last two decades, the Sharks have always been a competitive team fighting for their first-ever Stanley cup. A result of these consecutive runs to win it all and being identified as buyers at each trade deadline has left the sharks with many traded draft picks, prospects and also resulted in the Sharks having very few and late draft picks in most entry drafts.
The Sharks’ recent struggle to qualify for the playoffs the last few seasons, has allowed them to gather higher draft picks and more prospects to join the organization. Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson is satisfied with their chance to “replenish their system” and add some much-needed young talent for the team’s future.
Salary cap issues have forced out some regular roster players throughout the last few seasons, leaving holes in the lineup for young players and prospects to jump into. Last season we got to see John Leonard steal a spot right out of training camp and play the majority of the season with the Sharks. Young prospects that made a strong impression through the development camp were Ozzy Wiesblatt, Thomas Bordeleau, William Eklund, and Daniil Gushchin, to name a few. These guys were drafted recently by the Sharks, haven’t seen any NHL action, and could very well be seeing some ice time with the Sharks as soon as this season.
After training camp has closed down, the final cuts from the team have been made and announced. Notable players from last year’s Sharks team to not be on the list include Dylan Gambrell, Noah Gregor, and John Leonard. With the addition of Evander Kanes’ current absence from the team due to his multiple ongoing investigations with the league, there are various holes left upfront in the forward group.
Of the thirteen forwards that have officially made the opening night roster, three of them have never played a game in the NHL before. These forwards are Jonathan Dahlén, William Eklund, and Jasper Weatherby. Lane Pederson is in a similar situation, although he did see fifteen games last season with the Arizona Coyotes. These players close out our group of youngsters on the opening night roster.
Nick Bonino and Andrew Cogliano are new faces to the Sharks’ roster but are established NHL veterans and have already had long and successful careers. These two additions are not fighting for a spot on the team like the previous youngsters mentioned.
Rudolfs Balcers and Alexander Barabanov are in a unique position with the team as they both played in their fair share of games with the Sharks last year and both had a lot of success. However, both are pretty young and could both see significant improvements throughout an entire eighty-two game season with the team.
The remainder of the forwards’ core consists of established Sharks forwards that have played through numerous seasons; these players are team captain Logan Couture, alternate captain Tomas Hertl, Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier, and Matthew Nieto. Barring any unforeseen injuries, you can expect these players to make the roster and play each night.
Out of all of these thirteen forwards named on the official roster, only twelve will be dressed and playing in the season opener on Saturday night at SAP Center. The odd man out will no doubt be one of the four youngsters mentioned earlier. Jonathan Dahlén, William Eklund, Lane Pederson, and Jasper Weatherby cannot all be playing Saturday night unless we see an injury from one of the guys on top of them in the depth chart. Considering that Dahlén has played a lot of preseason minutes on the first line along with Couture, we can assume he will be playing Saturday. Eklund had also played a lot of his preseason minutes with Hertl and Balcers which we can expect to potentially be the second forward line. Pederson and Weatherby are both closer together than the other two rookies on the depth chart, however, Pederson should be expected to be in the opening night roster over Weatherby based on his time on ice throughout the entire preseason and how he performed during his ice time.